Future of Puerto Rico

January 19, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 3
Can the struggling U.S. territory recover?
By Barbara Mantel


Aurea Cruz's house in Vieques is among a half-million (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Ricardo Arduengo)
Aurea Cruz's house in Vieques is among a half-million homes in Puerto Rico damaged or destroyed by hurricanes last September that wrecked the electrical system and badly damaged the economy. Four months later, 40 percent of residents still lack electricity. (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Ricardo Arduengo)

Puerto Rico is still reeling from two devastating hurricanes last September and an 11-year recession, which have renewed a bitter debate over the U.S. territory's political status. Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged or destroyed nearly 500,000 homes and battered the antiquated electric system, leaving millions without power or shelter and badly hurting the already weak economy. Four months later, 40 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity, and recovery is stymied by what critics say is mismanagement of the government-owned utility and the Trump administration's indifference. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy before the storms after saying it could not make payments on its $73 billion public debt. In Maria's aftermath, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have migrated to Florida or elsewhere, and demographers say the island could lose 14 percent of its population by the end of 2019, further weakening its economy. The struggles have revived debate about whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st state. Advocates say statehood would reinvigorate the island's economy, but opponents say Puerto Rico should focus on economic and political reforms instead.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jan. 22, 2021  Corporate D&I
Oct. 30, 2020  Systemic Racism
Oct. 16, 2020  Monument Protests
Oct. 09, 2020  Police Under Scrutiny Updated
Aug. 23, 2019  Reparations for Slavery
Sep. 07, 2018  The STEM Gender Gap
Jan. 19, 2018  Future of Puerto Rico
Nov. 17, 2017  Affirmative Action and College Admissions
Jul. 28, 2017  Muslims in America
Mar. 10, 2017  Charter Schools
Sep. 23, 2016  Women in Leadership
Aug. 05, 2016  Diversity in Hollywood
May 13, 2016  Women in Combat
Jan. 08, 2016  Racial Conflict
Dec. 11, 2015  Transgender Rights
May 01, 2015  Community Colleges
Apr. 24, 2015  Native American Youths
Apr. 03, 2015  Latino Voters
Dec. 12, 2014  Police Tactics
Sep. 14, 2007  Racial Diversity in Public Schools Updated
Dec. 12, 2003  Black Colleges
Oct. 10, 1997  Diversity in the Workplace
Jan. 20, 1971  Ethnic America
Budget and the Economy
Congress Actions
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Crises
Electric Power
Emergency Preparedness
Energy Policy
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Natural Disasters
Party Politics
Puerto Rico and other Territories
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels